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Need to Talk? helping with suicidal thoughts

Do you know how to help someone who believes there is no other alternative? Suicidal subjects are generally seeking relief or escape from an intolerable situation, and they have usually experienced a gradual erosion of coping skills before suicide is considered as a solution. Most do not really want to die. They want to be rescued, but they don't know who to ask for help or even how others may be able to help. If you encounter an individual you feel may be suicidal, consider the following when responding.

Remember that suicidal behavior is an extreme form of communication. Helping to establish other means of communicating is an important place to start.  

What to do:

Be direct. Talk openly about the person's intent. Discuss how serious the person is about ending his/her life. Ask "are you considering suicide?" and/or "Do you have a plan" Assess the risk by determining the specificity of the plan is, lethality of the means, and the proximity of support/rescue services. Be a good listener. Look for nonverbal clues that might show how the person is feeling. Show that you care. Reassure the person that you care and that others care. Try to act and sound calm. Be genuine and understanding. Be positive. Point out the most desirable alternatives and emphasize the temporary nature of the person's problems. Explain that those problems will pass and that they do not require a solution as permanent as suicide. Get help. Arrange a referral to Student Counseling Services (799-2211 or ext. 2211) or call St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Emergency room at 743-2511. Stay with the person until the referral connection is made. If these resources are not available call (9)911 and the Lewiston Police Department will intervene.

What not to do:

Do not sidestep the issue. Avoid empty assurances that tend to de-emphasize the person's problems. Do not keep any secrets. If keeping a secret endangers somones life, then it is time to break the confidence. Do not sound shocked by anything the person tells you. Do not emphasize the shock, embarrassment, and pain that the suicide will cause others unless you are certain that is not exactly what the person hopes to accomplish. Do not argue/debate with the person, because you may not only loose the argument but also the person. Do not attempt to physically disarm the person. Instead try to manipulate the weapon away by talking to the person. Do not feel responsible for saving the person. You can assist a person by guiding him/her to professional help, but you cannot control what the person ultimately decides to do.